Updated: Aug 2
Are you one of the more than 50% of Americans who think estate planning is at least somewhat important, but you just haven’t gotten around to doing anything about it?
You have plenty of company – only about 30% of us have a will or living trust. Aside from procrastinating and not wanting to think about our mortality, we have come up with a
variety of reasons to put off getting our affairs in order.
August is National Make-a-Will Month, so we will be sharing important information you need to know to prepare properly.
Let’s start by looking at the most common misconceptions about wills.
Many of us believe we don’t have enough assets to make preparing a will or living trust worth the time and expense, and that only the wealthy need such planning. Others believe a will or trust is only needed by parents, the elderly, or those with health issues. Others mistakenly think a will, once written and signed, is permanent.
These beliefs are simply not true.
A will is a legal document that contains instructions for distributing one’s property (“estate") when they die. If married, each spouse must prepare a separate one. There is no minimum amount of wealth required to have a will. Every adult should have a basic plan in place to care for their own needs and those of their family. A will gives you the opportunity to:
* choose who will administer your estate and who will inherit (or not)
* provide for the care of minor children
* plan ways to minimize estate taxes and reduce inheritance taxes
* facilitate probate and avoid legal challenges
* include personal instructions such as your funeral plans
* make gifts and bequests to charitable organizations such as the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth
If you die without a will (“dying intestate”), your estate will be distributed according to your state’s intestacy laws. The state will determine who in your family gets what. It may not be what you intended. A will provides an opportunity to specifically include people and bequests that intestacy laws would otherwise leave out.
Look for our next blog in which we’ll discuss when and how you should consider using a trust.
The information provided in this blog is not intended as legal advice. Be sure to consult with your own attorney, accountant, or financial advisor before making any major financial decisions.